At six feet two inches, Jeakson Singh of Manipur can be a handful for any player on a football pitch, let alone ‘under 17’ level players. As one of the Indian U17 team’s most important players, Jeakson has a tremendous belief in his own abilities. His former coach at Chandigarh Football Academy, Sandeep Singh has summed it up perfectly – “That child is as tenacious as they come.”
For starters, his tenacity is apparent in the fact that despite being overlooked by previous India U17 coach Nicolai Adam on more than one occasion, Jeakson never downed his tools or adopted a defeatist attitude. Earlier this year, Adam was replaced by Portuguese coach Luis Norton de Matos, who brought fresh ideas and a new approach with him. He had already inherited a well-drilled squad, but was open to challenging his players to fight for their places. No one was indispensable.
It was then that during one of the team’s first practice matches under Matos when the team was taking on Minerva Punjab’s youth side, Jeakson Singh caught his eye. His imposing frame always ensured that, but it was his match winning performance in a 1-0 win for his team against the country’s best under 17 footballers that convinced Matos of his abilities. He knew that a shake-up was in order.
Jeakson Singh for Minerva, first row, extreme left
Jeakson followed three other players from that Minerva team into the national under 17 squad, and started training with Matos with the dream of being one of the players who would be the first ever to represent India at a FIFA tournament. With just over a week to go for India’s first match against USA in the 2017 FIFA U17 World Cup, Jeakson is one of the first names on the team sheet. The dream is now a reality.
Jeakson Singh quite literally inherited football. His father, Deben Thounaojam used to play for the Manipuri clubs NISA and Manipur Police. His elder brother Jonichand Singh, a former India U19 footballer who currently plays for Peerless in the Calcutta Football League is the family’s major breadwinner. After Jeakson’s father suffered a brain stroke which forced him to leave his public sector job a few years back, he does his best to sustain the family as a farmer near Imphal.
Both Jeakson and the Indian U17 team’s captain Amarjit Singh Kiyam started off at a young age training at the Chandigarh Football Academy, thousands of miles away from home. But it was at the age of 15 that Jeakson decided he wanted to move to the Minerva Punjab academy, a team which gave him the possibility of playing in the I-League one day. A natural leader with an easy and effortless charm, Jeakson went on to captain the side in the under 15 I-League the season he joined, and came up with a match winning performance in the final against Royal Wahingdoh FC. Trailing 1-0, he scored a free-kick to level the match, and emerged victorious with his team later on penalties.
“I want to create history with this team,” Jeakson has said about the Indian team’s participation in the U17 World Cup.
“After a few initial rejections, I was a little sad, but I never gave up and kept training hard to make my mark. I’ve dreamed of wearing this India jersey for so long, it feels really, really good that I can wear it now. With this team and the group we have here, I’m learning something new every day. How a professional footballer leads his life, how to conduct yourself, how to be disciplined. I am now going to give it my all for the country.”
— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) September 27, 2017
India will take on USA in the first match of their campaign on October 6th, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi. Be assured, that if Jeakson Singh and the other ten Indian players play to the best of their abilities on that day, the outcome could be something special. After all, that is the dream.